Defining success in terms of authentic witness rather than numbers (even though they are huge!)

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(most of) the cast – image by Gayle Akerman

It’s Monday morning and I am exhausted! But in a good way. This weekend’s “all-in” emphasis on telling the Good News story to our community was a resounding success. And by that I mean in ways far beyond raw numbers.

Over the weekend over 3,100 visitors made their way to our campus to experience as authentic a rendition of the Christmas story as it is possible to tell. It’s the authenticity that makes it work so well.

Not just the authenticity of the storytelling but the authenticity that shines through from the cast-members and volunteers who make it happen. We’re a large church but not a huge one, and it takes the nothing-held-back commitment of around 250 people to bring this experience to Wake Forest.

“The Force is strong with this one”

That is the real “magic” of Bethlehem. Sunday evening it drizzled, then rained, but spirits were not dampened at all. From teen angels shivering with wet feathers over the stable, to Herod holding court in his palace, to shepherds tending their (smelly) wet sheep in the fields, to support personnel bringing hot chocolate to people waiting in line and serving cookies and endlessly parking and re-parking cars – the light of Christ shone truly and believable in them all (click here for 50-plus photos that tell the story).

me with some of my favorite cast members

There’s a phrase from Star Wars that comes to mind: “The Force is strong with this one…” Well the love of Jesus is strong with the cast and crew of Walk Through Bethlehem; and that – beyond anything else – is the message the Wake Forest community receives loud and clear and it is a message of beauty and clarity and hope and grace.

This is why I call this year’s event an outstanding and resounding success. From the youngest child to the oldest adult Jesus truly showed up in Bethlehem this year.

What Child is This…

What Child is this? He is the child who entered this world willingly, unprotected, vulnerable, poor, helpless, homeless, a refugee, forced from the country of his birth by the threat of violence…

What Child is this? He is the one who grew in wisdom and in love and in compassion, learning to live as if everything he had was – first – a gift from Creator God….

What child is this? His name is Jesus. He is God’s invitation to each one of us to follow him and to find our way home.

And what does this child ask of us?
· Only our trust;
· only our love;
· only our hopes and dreams;
· only our faithfulness as we serve him as disciples in this time and at this place.

So we dedicate ourselves to this Holy Child, and to serve Jesus with more trust, with more joy, with less anxiety, and with increasingly generous hearts.

Because He Lives – DEREK

image by Scott Krussow



Christmas message photogrpahy The Church The Manger The Meaning the message The Messiah The Story

derekmaul View All →

Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at, and there’s always something new in the works.

Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.

Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.

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